In the challenging landscape of tire manufacturing, where costs are soaring and efficiency is paramount, tire companies are seeking innovative solutions to overcome obstacles and secure their market position. The China Rubber Association recently organized an online exchange meeting, bringing together key players in the industry. This gathering addressed the pressing issues faced by tire companies, such as transportation difficulties, pandemic control measures, material import restrictions, escalating raw material prices, inventory surpluses, and limited sales. With predictions of a substantial decline in automobile production in the coming months, tire companies are actively exploring ways to cut costs and improve operational efficiency. One promising technology that holds the potential to address these challenges is laser tire cleaning automation equipment.
The Energy Efficiency Imperative: Tire Vulcanization
Tire vulcanization, a critical stage in the tire production process, accounts for the highest energy consumption. Conventionally, vulcanization involves subjecting the tire mold and bladder to high-pressure superheated water or steam, elevating the internal and external temperatures of the tire to approximately 180 °C and 150 °C, respectively. This process demands a significant amount of heat. As per the prevailing national standard process (GB29449-2012), vulcanization consumes the most energy. Optimizing this aspect can lead to substantial gains in energy utilization.
While replacing the superheated water process with nitrogen vulcanization and upgrading to fully automated vulcanization workshops are effective measures, mold cleaning also plays a vital role. Traditional cleaning methods necessitate lengthy shutdowns, involving mold cooling, cleaning, and reheating. This process is time-consuming, resulting in heat energy wastage. Mold cleaning typically occurs in two scenarios: mold replacement due to pattern specification changes and routine cleaning without pattern switching. Regardless of the situation, two cleaning methods are employed: comprehensive refurbishment with a thorough cleaning cycle and online cleaning during production, which extends the cleaning cycle.
Laser tire cleaning offers unique advantages in this context:
Accurate and Consistent Cleaning Effect: Laser cleaning delivers precise and consistent cleaning results.
Safe Cleaning without Substrate Abrasion: The process ensures safe cleaning without damaging the mold substrate.
Extended Mold Life: Laser cleaning extends the lifespan of molds.
Hot or Cold Cleaning, Online Capability: Laser cleaning can be performed on hot or cold molds, and it allows for online cleaning.
Rapid Mold Cleaning Speed: Laser cleaning achieves mold cleaning speeds of up to 22m²/hour.
Easy Automation: The process lends itself well to automation, streamlining operations.
Moreover, laser cleaning finds applications in the rubber mixing process, which is the second-largest energy consumer in tire manufacturing. By removing paint, rust, oil, and other residues from equipment, laser cleaning facilitates secondary maintenance, reduces unscheduled downtime, and helps maintain equipment in optimal condition.
By integrating laser cleaning into the mold production line, residual raw materials on molds can be monitored and automatically cleaned. This solution effectively addresses long-term shutdowns and production delays. Laser cleaning’s non-destructive and efficient characteristics are pivotal in tire mold cleaning. For instance, traditional methods such as dry ice or chemical cleaning necessitate an eight-hour downtime to clean a pair of high-precision molds. However, laser cleaning completes the task in just a few minutes, with negligible operating costs. Consequently, a tire factory cleaning 1,500 sets of molds annually can save 6,000 hours of production time, resulting in an approximate increase of 30,000 tire sets. Beyond environmental benefits, significant economic advantages are also realized.
Upgrading Environmental Protection and Eliminating Outdated Capacity
The tire manufacturing industry is widely acknowledged as a significant source of pollution. To combat environmental challenges and promote sustainable development, the Chinese government has initiated several defense battles, focusing on achieving blue skies, clean water, and unpolluted land. These efforts fall under the “dual carbon” strategy, emphasizing carbon neutrality and peak carbon emissions. As enterprises compete within this framework, they actively align themselves with the “double carbon” strategy.
Recently, the Shandong Provincial Development and Reform Commission released the “Shandong Province ‘Two Highs’ Project Management Catalog (2022 Edition),” outlining “five reductions and substitutions” for new projects falling under the “two highs” category. Projects experiencing increases in energy consumption, coal consumption, carbon emissions, and pollutant emissions must compensate with equivalent or reduced quantities.
Government-led initiatives to eliminate low-end production capacity in recent years have ensured the impending clearance of heavily polluting enterprises.
Other Applications of Laser tire Cleaning Systems in the Tire Industry
Apart from mold cleaning, laser cleaning systems find additional applications in the tire industry:
Inner Wall Cleaning: High-grade silent tires and self-repairing tires require deglazing and removal of the isolation layer from the inner wall before attaching silent cotton or applying self-repairing glue. Achieving surface adhesion without damaging the inner wall’s surface is crucial. The laser cleaning machine offers exceptional results, delivering a removal cleanliness of 99.99% and micron-level particle size. In customer testing, the equipment meets the stringent technical requirements, achieving a friction coefficient increase of over 35mN/m and a surface tension of 38dyne/cm.
Laser Marking: Laser marking is a well-established surface technology used to create unique marks on finished tires. Once burned, these marks are permanent, ensuring safety, environmental friendliness, and enhanced anti-counterfeiting measures. While many companies currently employ paper QR code labels, these labels are prone to counterfeiting and can be easily torn off, raising doubts about quality assurance. Laser cleaning machines can seamlessly integrate tire marking with traceability codes, either in character or QR code form. By integrating with server databases, this solution enables consumers to access information with a single click while aiding manufacturers in management and control.
Although the current tire industry faces challenges, the outlook remains positive. Macro trends indicate steady growth in radial tire sales, and the production capacity of new energy vehicles continues to expand. With the pandemic nearing its end, laser tire cleaning is expected that various indicators within the tire industry will improve in the latter half of the year.